With the start of the Cavaliers season just a day away and the Browns flying high after a win this past Sunday, Cleveland’s national spotlight is growing by the second. Success or no success, LeBron and the Cavaliers will garner plenty of attention for the next nine months, but what about the Browns? Can the beloved Brownies put themselves two games above .500 for the first time since President Bush was still in office?
After falling ill to a trap game in Jacksonville, Cleveland managed to get themselves back on track against another winless team in the Oakland Raiders. The bounce back win showed the mental toughness that Cleveland Browns teams have been lacking for the last decade and a half. As bad as the loss to the Jaguars seemed, Cleveland still sits at a game above .500 with another presumably good matchup coming fast this Sunday in the form of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL this season, managing just one win on a last second touchdown over the Pittsburgh Steelers. After trading away their starting strong safety and middle linebacker yesterday, the team will be even more depleted when they march on to FirstEnergy Stadium’s field.
The keys to a win reside in consistency and mental toughness. The Browns can’t come out expecting an easy win like they may have done in Jacksonville, as any team can win on any given Sunday. Cleveland has to show that they have the desire and fortitude to come out strong week after week. The other factor comes in the form of consistency. Brian Hoyer has to be able to play all four quarters and not just show up for one quarter or half. His ability seems to be wavering from drive to drive after his abysmal performance in Jacksonville, and he needs to be able to perform at his highest level for this team’s success. Though, something that would help Hoyer is a return of the running game that we saw through the first six weeks of the season.
The Browns were third in the league in rushing yards before the Jacksonville contest and are plummeting at an alarming rate. After back to back outputs of 69 yards and 39 yards, the run game has become practically non-existent, and with three talented backs on your team, there is something severely wrong with that. Who would’ve guessed that the loss of Alex Mack would be this detrimental to the Browns offense? Ben Tate, Terrance West, and Isaiah Crowell, who barely got a snap in last week’s game for some unknown reason, will have to pick it up against a Tampa Bay defense ranked dead last.
Speaking of defense, it seems as if the Browns defense everybody thought would be a top-5 D in the league before the first few games is finally taking form. Though they struggled against the Jaguars rushing attack, they shut down the passing game. Against the Raiders, they allowed over 300 passing yards, but it took 56 attempts and the run game barely managed over 70 yards. The Browns D will look to improve on their performance against a Tampa Bay offense that, not surprisingly, is also ranked dead last. My prediction is that Cleveland will walk off the field Sunday as a 5-3 squad preparing for a Thursday night showdown in Cincinnati, but as well all know; only time will tell.